LETTER: Community meeting on Exxon fire more than just talk
As Chief Executive Officer of the East Baton Rouge Council On Aging, I was compelled to attend the Emergency Called Community Meeting, held by Senator Cleo Fields on February 19, 2020. This meeting was called in response to the fire at the ExxonMobil Baton Rouge Refinery the night of February 12th. The meeting, which occurred one day after the release of Exxon’s seven-day report, explained a timeline of events and which chemicals were released into the air and how harmful they are to us.
I felt obliged to attend because I knew the dynamics of the community and in my capacity as EBRCOA CEO, I represent the seniors in that area.
Senator Cleo Fields conducted a wonderful community meeting as it relates to the Exxon fire and how it has impacted the community closer to the plant. He laid out steps that he was going to do moving forward: accountability, notification, education, air monitoring and legislation to make significant changes on how we are notified about potential threats to our health. I was impressed that Sen. Fields stuck to his purpose of this meeting which was meaningful dialogue to craft legislation to “ensure the safety of the state’s citizens”.
As I surveyed the close to 200 + people in the room, a resounding message and picture occurred to me. Ninety percent of the folks at the meeting who are living in the area nearest to the chemical plant are Seniors….they are scared and worried about their health and environment. I’ve had conversation with many of them as it relates to their fears about being messed over again and being forgotten about. I’ve spoken to many of them regarding their health issues; cancers, debilitating mobility problems, breathing and lung issues among other health complications.
I left the meeting feeling reassured that this time, it was more than just talk and just maybe we will see some immediate changes made to protect the lives of our most vulnerable community members.
A great big “Thank you” to Senator Cleo Fields, Senator Regina Barrow, State Representatives Edmond Jordan and C. Denise Marcelle, and Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome for taking up this community issue.
Mrs. Tasha Clark-Amar
Council on Aging
East Baton Rouge